Nov 30, 2007

Let's Get Stupid!

Russian Youths Join the Ranks of Their American Counterparts

From Организация экономического сотрудничества и развития (ОЭСР) представила рейтинг уровня знаний школьников в возрасте 15 лет из 57 стран мира. Всего в рейтинге учитывались результаты тестов 400 тыс. учащихся. Россия попала в группу стран, где уровень знаний у школьников оценивается как “ниже среднего”. В группе с ней соседствуют США и Азербайджан.

Финские школьники получили в рейтинге 563 балла и заняли в нем первое место. В среднем ученики из Европы набирали примерно по 500 очков. Например британские учащиеся заработали 515 баллов, чешские - 513, швейцарские - 512. Всего рейтинг выше среднестатистической нормы получили ученики из 20 стран мира. Ученики из пяти стран находятся на среднем уровне, а еще из 22-х – на низком. В эту группу вошли США с 489 баллами и Россия с 479. Также в группе оказались Латвия, Литва и Азербайджан. Последнее место в рейтинге заняла Киргизия с набранными 322 баллами.

Kazakhstan-Barbuda: BFFs, Finally!

In a victory for boutique diplomacy, Kazakhstan and Barbuda are now officially Best Friends Forever.

This follows years of sitting at different tables at the UN Cafeteria (a magical wonderland from which Eternal Remont was once politely evicted at the request of the Cuban government).

Neither country would confirm if they exchanged friendship bracelets, or even added each other to their MySpace pages. However, we can all rest easy now that the threat of a war between Kazakhstan and Barbuda has diminished.

"Our two countries can now begin the journey towards greater friendship and cooperation," said Ambassador Byrganym Aitimova at a signing ceremony to commemorate the event.

Nov 29, 2007

It's been a long time, but I'm back with a dick joke

BBC: Croatia rose to the occasion in their crucial Euro 2008 defeat of England - after an apparent X-rated gaffe by an English opera singer at Wembley. Tony Henry belted out a version of the Croat anthem before the 80,000 crowd, but made a blunder at the end. He should have sung 'Mila kuda si planina' (which roughly means 'You know my dear how we love your mountains'). But he instead sang 'Mila kura si planina' which can be interpreted as:

'My dear, my penis is a mountain'.

Now Henry could be one of the few Englishmen at the Euro 2008 finals in Austria and Switzerland as Croatian fans adopt him as a lucky omen.

Nov 27, 2007

Oil State Excess: The $600 T-Shirt

Tired of the same old, drab news from Russia's parliamentary elections? Why not treat yourself to a little bit of nostalgia: the $600 USSR T-Shirt (available in Putin Hawaiian flavors too)...

NYTimes: “People in their 30s see these kinds of symbols as reminders of happy memories, like going to pioneer camp where they lived together, ate breakfast together and played sports,” said Mr. Simachev, 33, who wears his hair in a Samurai-style ponytail. He insists he is no Communist — for one thing, his overcoats sell for about $2,100 and his T-shirts for about $600. His boutique is sandwiched between Hermès and Burberry stores on a pedestrian lane, Stoleshnikov, that is one of the capital’s most expensive shopping streets."

Nov 19, 2007

Crazy? Or Crazy Like a Fox...

Have we come this far, when a Doomsday Cult actually starts to make sense? Members of the "True Russian Orthodox Church" have sealed themselves in a cave to await the End Of The World -- coming in May 2008 apparently. News reports have made much hay about their many "odd" beliefs, but we're not so sure....

The group won't read Russian newspapers (smart), won't send their children to government-run schools (who wants to read Putin's new textbook anyway), won't handle money (too many germs -- agreed), and believe the internal passport system is a sign of the devil. No shit?

Someone pass the Kool-Aid.

Nov 16, 2007

Featured Article

Our very own Brooke Leonard offers an fantastic look on the current state of US-Russian Relations in the most recent issue of The National Interest.

“…the damage done is not yet irreparable, as there is no major conflict between fundamental U.S. and Russian relations.”

Nov 15, 2007

'Laws can be changed'

At this point, it almost feels like slow motion dentistry. A new group called “For Putin” claims to have 30 million signatures begging the President to stay on as “national leader.”

National Führer? Sweet lord. We could have picked something less tacky. Meanwhile, the BBC just can’t seem to figure this one out, writing: “It is not clear how Mr Putin can stay on as national leader when another man is sitting in the Kremlin as Russia's next president.”

No word if the "30 million signatures" are listed in alphabetical order.

Kyrgyzstan Stops to Smell the Tulips

Kyrgyzstan is set to hit the polls in less than a month, now with a new and improved electoral law. Straight party lists are in, along with a nifty electoral threshold which will snuff out most of the small regional parties.

The good? It'll keep things "stable." The bad and the ugly are just as attractive. So our beloved Kyrgyz Republic stumbles forward.

Tulips anyone?

Nov 13, 2007

Putin's Successor Uncovered!

Jen sends along this confidential information from a trusted source. It's the identity of Putin’s successor… (Can you guess?)

Some Creative Thinking from Ingush Authorities...

Igor sends this gem.

RFE/RL reports: Acting on instructions from President Murat Zyazikov, Ingushetian Interior Minister Musa Medov has issued orders to two Ingushetian Internet providers to block access to the independent website, that website reported on November 13, citing unnamed sources within the ministry. Anyone who seeks to access from within Ingushetia is automatically routed to a site that features pornographic movies.

Eternal Remont is working on an Ingushetiya proxy.

State of Emergency

The Russian press is having a field day with Georgia. ‘See what happens when you have American democracy…’ Izvestia published results of an Internet poll showing:

-- 38% of Russians believe Saakashvili will prevail

-- 37% of Russians believe the opposition will win

-- The remainder are too busy fire-bombing Georgian restaurateurs or yanking Georgian children from classrooms to ponder such merciless trivialities

Meanwhile, Anne Applebaum writes in the WashPost: “That George Bush has made no comment about Georgia at all this week is a disgrace.”

But President Bush has already determined that the Russian’s don’t have the DNA for democracy (below), so we don’t really understand all of the fuss over Georgia.

Nov 12, 2007

What's state protocol between friends?

Turkish op-ed writers, despite the fact that they have plenty of "real" issues to rant about, have gotten their iç çamaşırı all twisted up over President Gul's violation of state protocol in his recent meeting with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. On three occasions, Gul spat in the face of the knit-pickers on the Çankaya protocol staff. (One strange note - apparently the Saudi flag can never be flown at half-mast because it has the Muslim testimony of faith on it.)

Gul's response: "The man has 1.5 trillion dollars. I'll bark like a dog while doing the crab-walk to get a piece of that."

Nov 11, 2007

Saakashvili is Ambitious

NYTimes reports: "Anticipating demands from a senior American diplomat that he immediately lift a state of emergency, President Mikheil Saakashvili said Saturday that the emergency decree would remain in effect as long as the Georgian government deemed it necessary." That's, as long as Saakashvili deems it necessary.

Or as Mark Antony put it, "I thrice presented him a kingly crown, which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?" We kinda think it was Mark Antony.

Nov 8, 2007

"Shaping a Balance of Power"

Before he determined that the Russians don't have the DNA for democracy, President Bush had some pretty good ideas. In his 2001 Inaugural Address he stated, "America remains engaged in the world by history and by choice, shaping a balance of power that favors freedom."

We figured this was a good time to measure just how well we’ve done in shaping that balance. If mediocrity is a measure of success, we've done a ban-up job. Freedom House's aggragate ratings 2001 & 2007:

Georgia Improved (cough, cough)
Kyrgyzstan Improved
Tajikistan Improved
Ukraine Improved

Armenia Declined
Azerbaijan Declined
Belarus Declined
Kazakhstan Declined
Russia Declined
Turkmenistan Decline
Uzbekistan Declined

Nov 7, 2007

Bush v Mountain Turks

Prior to meeting with Turkish PM Erdogan, Bush made the statement: "I look forward to visiting with Prime Minister Erdogan on this important subject as to how we can work together to prevent people from coming out of mountain ranges to do harm to Turkish troops." In his usual manner, Bush avoided any flairs of speech and described the situation as best he understood it. However, given the past attempts of the Turkish government to squelch Kurdish nationalism, most notably the "Mountain Turk" idea (in the early days of the Turkish Republic, there were no Kurds, just mountain Turks sometimes called Kurds because the noise made by their feet in the snowy passes of the mountain ranges made the sound "kart, kurt"), referencing mountains and Kurds (even of the terrorist variety) is like describing a NAACP fundraising event as a "fried-chicken and grape soda" soul dinner. Already, several Kurdish national groups are ranting about the "racist" policies that have come from the Bush-Erdogan meeting. However, if the Kurdish nationalists don't want to be described as a wild mountain people who attack and prey upon their more civilized neighbors, perhaps they should stop endorsing their co-nationals who do indeed live in the mountains and attack their more civilized neighbors...

Nov 5, 2007

Another Clear Example for the Necessity of Turkey's 301

Last week the Turkish government (albeit in local form) once again demonstrated why the infamous article 301 of its criminal code must remain in effect. Clearly there is a mortal danger posed to the security of the state when a small dog expresses its national pride. Thank Allah for the vigilance of Abdullah Kalkan, an administrator in Bodrum, who promptly arrested the owner of the insulting animal. The Turkish nation can sleep easier knowing that article 301 is protecting them.

Nov 2, 2007

Now It's Just Getting Wierd

So Plan Putin is now an official part of United Russia's platform. Only, nobody still seems to know what said plan might be...

Moscow Times reports: "There actually are at least three separate documents titled 'Putin's Plan.'

--The thickest is a book that includes Putin's seven annual state-of-the-nation addresses and three other speeches, including the sharply anti-U.S. presentation delivered at a Munich security conference in February.

--The second is a United Russia booklet that contains a collection of patriotic appeals about Russia's sovereignty, economic revival and military might.

--The third is the campaign program that United Russia passed at its convention on Oct. 1. Putin agreed at the convention to head the party's list of candidates for the State Duma elections Dec. 2.

Nov 1, 2007

United Russia Has Cold Balls

Since the Kremlin has already informed governors that it expects them to provide United Russia with no less than 70% of the vote, all of this ballot fixing is a little much. But then again, it has produced the Eternal Remont Quote Of The Year:

"I began touching them, and Volodin started to shout, 'Bakov is touching the balls!' Then other people tried to stop me." -- Anton Bakov from the Union of Right Forces (Thanks Chalmers!)

Meanwhile, Igor notes this recent survey by the Levada Center.

--55% want presidential term limits increased to 7 years

--53% want the constitution changed to let Putin stay for "three or four terms"

--BUT, only 17% want him to be "president for life," down (incredibly) from 35% in April

"I'm trying to straighten this out. If you increase the terms to 7 years, and give Putin two more of those (plus the three years that would be "left" in this term), the man will rule Russia for a total of 25 years. How is that not a "President for Life"?

Obviously, respondents weren't asked all those thing in combinations. But it still boggles the mind. P.S. The respondents also didn't like the "Putin as PM" ploy, only 23% in support, so I think Surkov and Co. missed on that one."